Ever since the dispute over the Arash-Anem joint oil-gas field reignited after the Saudi Foreign Minister’s visit to Tehran, questions have arisen about whether this field was included in the reconciliation efforts between Iran’s regime and Saudi Arabia.

The gas-oil field, known as ‘Al-Durra’ in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, was originally discovered by the Japanese in 1965.

It is believed that approximately 40% of the Arash or Al-Durra field falls within Iran’s territorial waters, while the remainder lies within the territorial waters of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. However, no clear boundaries have been established regarding ownership of this valuable resource.

In 2003, Tehran authorities halted development operations in the field, and ever since, fruitless disputes over its ownership have arisen every few years, leading to no resolution.

Around three weeks after Faisal bin Farhan, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, visited Iran, the Saudi government declared in a statement that the natural resources in the maritime area, including the Al-Durra (Arash) field, are solely under joint ownership between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Surprisingly, these statements by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were met with silence by Iranian regime officials.

Only after Zhang Jianwei, the Chinese ambassador to Kuwait, expressed his willingness to help resolve the dispute among the three countries did Nasser Kanani, the spokesperson of the Iranian regime’s foreign ministry, made a somewhat humiliating statement.

He mentioned that the delimitation of maritime boundaries is one of the issues being negotiated between Iran and Kuwait. The last round of legal and technical negotiations on this matter took place on March 13, 2023, in Tehran, involving senior officials from both countries’ foreign ministries.

Meanwhile, Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kuwait, made it clear that Kuwait’s position remains unchanged – the gas resources of the Arash field are joint resources between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and nothing else.

In March of the previous year, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia began operating the Arash field (Al-Durra) through a joint contract. The contract was signed during a period of strained relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as chilled relations between Kuwait and Tehran. This move resulted in desperate protests from Iranian regime officials. However, the two countries, which jointly own a significant portion of the field, quickly started exploiting its resources.

Reports from Iranian media indicate that the Arash field holds approximately 20 trillion cubic feet of in-situ natural gas reserves and nearly 310 million barrels of crude oil reserves.

Hedayatollah Khademi, the chairman of the board of directors of the Iranian Oil and Gas Drilling Companies Association, claimed in a recent interview with a state-run outlet that Saudi Arabia took the lead from Iran in the field, which led to further concerns.

It is unclear whether the Iranian regime handed over this oil field to the Arab countries as part of a reconciliation with Saudi Arabia. However, it is evident that Tehran’s authorities’ silence and inaction in the face of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait’s exploitation of the field reflects their weakness and inferiority in the balance of power.

Some news sources suggest that even if Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are willing to offer concessions to Iran in the Arash field, Iran lacks the technical capabilities to exploit it due to the complex gas extraction and oil drilling technologies required.

According to these sources, the extraction technology required for geologically complex fields that need horizontal exploitation operations is beyond Iran’s current technical and engineering capabilities. For instance, the joint oil field of Azar and Chengoleh in Ilam province faced similar challenges and was stopped for this reason, but the Arash field’s conditions are even more intricate as it is in the sea.

Iran regime’s oil minister, Javad Oji, has stated that developing oil fields would require a minimum of 250 billion dollars in capital, which is beyond the capabilities of the regime’s crisis-stricken economy.